Immigration: Updates and Ongoing Battles

photo of GEO-run ICE detention center in Adelanto, CA.

All too frequently we hear news of abhorrent actions taken against immigrants seeking refuge in our country: Bans on people because of their religion or country of origin. Unnecessary obstacles in asylum cases. Inhumane treatment of immigrants at our borders. Brutal treatment and neglect of immigrants who are imprisoned in ICE’s jails. Expansion of private prisons to detain immigrants despite the companies’ abysmal records of human rights violations. The barrage is constant and the conditions our fellow human beings are living in are dire.

This is why Disability Law United and others are determined to fight – and win – this battle.

While we can’t possibly name all the work being done, here you will find an update on some recent efforts being made, some battles being won, and steps being taken toward future wins.

In November, ICE filed a motion to dismiss the Fraihat case brought by Disability Law United and co-counsel. On February 24, Disability Law United and co-counsel will argue in court that our case should continue. This nationwide class action lawsuit challenges the federal government’s failure to ensure detained immigrants receive appropriate medical and mental health care, its punitive use of segregation in violation of the U.S. Constitution, and its failure to ensure that detained immigrants with disabilities are provided accommodations and do not face discrimination. Our clients have experienced undeniable neglect and discrimination and the progress being made should result in much needed systemic change of a broken and unlawful system.

On January 15, 2020, NPR investigative reporter, Tom Dreisbach, published a piece (“Despite Findings of ‘Negligent’ Care, ICE to Expand Troubled Calif. Detention Center”) summarizing recent events and their backstories, and bringing to light a previously confidential report detailing human rights abuses at the Adelanto detention center. This recently released report even included withering criticism of the facility from internal government watchdogs. The work of Disability Law United and others at Adelanto is highlighted in Dreisbach’s article. Investigative journalism, coupled with firsthand reports from directly impacted people, reports from immigration advocates, and damning governmental documents obtained through FOIA and other legal means, continue to build the case against our current immigration detention system and keep this issue on the forefront of human rights advocacy work.

On October 11, 2019, the state of California took the historic step of banning ICE from establishing new contracts with private, for-profit companies to run federal immigration prisons in California. This law came into being as a result of persistent pressure from a number of immigration advocacy groups including one of the organizational plaintiffs in the Fraihat case and longstanding Disability Law United partner, Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ICIJ). The tireless work of ICIJ and so many other organizations across the country aimed at destroying the evils of the current immigration system will contribute to systemic and lasting change.

Clearly, work is also needed at the individual level and to help address the immediate needs many in our immigrant community face on a daily basis. Although they have decades of experience representing immigrants in detention, in January, our allies at the Rocky Mountain Immigration Advocacy Network (RMIAN) marked one year of participating in the Denver Immigrant Legal Services Fund (DILSF), which is a pilot universal representation model, similar to the structure adopted by public defenders, providing merits-blind representation for Denver residents impacted by federal immigration enforcement. Director of Disability Law United’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project (IDAP), Liz Jordan, also represents several individual clients in Colorado and elsewhere who are experiencing legal issues at the intersection of disability and immigration law. Liz and others at Disability Law United continue to serve as advisors to lawyers representing immigrants who also have disabilities. In response to Disability Law United’s increased case-load made possible in part by recent grant funding, Disability Law United hired Senior Staff Attorney Pilar Gonzalez Morales to help.

The humanitarian crisis at our southern border is especially dire and there are a number of organizations there to assist. Ally and Fraihat organizational plaintiff Al Otro Lado provides desperately needed legal assistance to asylum seekers at the border and technical assistance to other attorneys working on behalf of people who are immigrants. IDAP recently supported Texas Civil Rights Project, an advocacy and litigation group fighting for the rights of people living in Texas, on a case involving a Deaf woman and her family stuck in the Remain In Mexico program and experiencing discrimination and harm as a result.

At the border and across the nation, much is being done and still there is much more to do. In a crisis as massive and as complex as that facing immigrants in our country and across the globe, it is important to celebrate, even if briefly, victories and progress before we return to the remaining issues and to the people who are suffering. We hope you will join Disability Law United in celebrating the effort and success highlighted here and then, with us, turn again to work that lies ahead.

There are a lot of worthy organizations working on immigration that rely on philanthropic support. We hope you’ll consider Disability Law United when you decide to support the vital immigration work being done.

Please donate to Disability Law United today!

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